MELFORT — In what could have been a much more lethal outcome, six domestic rabbits were retrieved by concerned citizens who found them abandoned at the PFRA reservoir southeast of Melfort.
Wayne Neilsen said he was out for a walk with his dog on May 18 when he noticed a single adult rabbit by the road.
“My son and I were able to catch it and bring it to the SPCA, it was just loose,” Neilsen said. “It definitely was domestic; it was white with little brown patches. They never change like a jackrabbit, or a wild animal would.”
Knowing it wouldn’t survive if left, the rabbit was taken to the North East SPCA (NESPCA) to receive care, and given the name Alfredo.
About a week later in the same location Neilsen found five more: two adults named Orzo and Spaghetti, as well as three bunnies named Gnocchi, Ziti and Ratatouille.
This time he asked for help to transport them, calling his friend Laura Dies who lives near the dam. In communication with the NESPCA, the pets were taken to Dies’ farm.
“It was the first place he could think of,” Dies said. “We happened to raise chickens, so we had extra coups and space.”
Dies became the animals foster mom, who by chance had a child asking for a pet bunny. She also supplied perennials for a fundraiser outside the NESPCA to sterilize two of the male rabbits. It costs about $150 for each.
“There were probably more of them when they dropped off the first, and they obviously didn’t make it. They’re not a wild animal, they’re domesticated. They’re sweet natured, they’re good pets,” Dies said.
“It would have been nice if whoever did it would fix this animal. It’s frustrating, it’s sad. They would have died out there undoubtedly,”
Abandoning a pet is against the provincial Animal Protection Act of 2018. The Act forbids a person responsible for an animal to abandon it in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, distress to the animal such as lack of shelter, food, water or medical care.
Penalties for breaking the law include a fine of up to $25,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years, and a prohibition or restriction on owning animals for a specific period of time.
Of the six rabbits, Alfredo is set to be adopted; Spaghetti, Orzo and Gnocchi are being kept by Dies; and the bunnies Ziti and Ratatouille are going up for adoption – although Christina Baptist, the NESPCA’s shelter manager, said she doubts they will be up for long.
“We already had some phone calls today about the bunnies and when they’re going to be here,” Baptist said on June 16. “I think they might be gone by next week.”
Anyone with information pertaining to the abandonment can call Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or the Melfort RCMP detachment at 306-752-6420.
Baptist said while this is not the first time Melfort’s shelter has cared for bunnies it is the first time since she started the role that an abandoned animal has been brought in by a resident.
“Usually they’re a surrender or the city’s pound brings us the animals,” she said.
“We take those kinds of things and we find them homes.”
Surrendered animals the shelter has cared for in the past include hamsters, bunnies, cats, dogs and a fish.
When asked if there is a message Neilsen would like to get out to the community, he said that it’s cruel to abandon one’s pets outside.
“To expect to just drop some rabbits off or cats off or whatever it is you’re dropping off into a wild area – they’re not going to survive.”